July 5, 2023

Phillips’ Mill Presents New Historical Drama

WOMEN IN ACTION: Scenes like this one, of a VIA (Village Improvement Association) float at an Old Home Week Celebration in Doylestown, Pa., circa 1912, are the inspiration for “Voices: A History of the VIA of Doylestown,” a play produced by Phillips’ Mill Premiere Showcase. (Photo courtesy of the VIA of Doylestown)

From July 20-23, Phillips’ Mill Premiere Showcase presents Voices: A History of the VIA of Doylestown in partnership with the Village Improvement Association (VIA), at 2619 River Road in New Hope, Pa. This historical drama, written by Joy Nash of Doylestown, Pa., and directed by Griffin Horn of Philadelphia and New Hope, is a celebration of Doylestown Hospital and the women of the VIA who founded it 100 years ago.

The annual premiere showcase is a selected, fully-staged mounting of an original, full-length play, performed for the first time in front of a live audience on the stage at Phillips’ Mill, and produced by the Phillips’ Mill Community Association drama program.

The play is set in 1895, when a social phenomenon is sweeping the country. American women of all ages, classes, and races are organizing. Not for social purposes, but for social causes: women’s suffrage, child welfare, the needs of working women, racial equality, and the health of their communities.

With Doylestown Hospital’s centennial year celebrations coming up, Nash and other members of the VIA of Doylestown were looking for ways to honor the pioneering women who founded their civic organization in 1895 and Doylestown Hospital 28 years later.

“The women of the VIA hired a visiting nurse in 1916 because there was no public healthcare in Doylestown,” she said. “The citizens of Doylestown had to travel to the new hospital in Abington for anything other than routine maternal care or minor illness and injuries. From day one, the ladies kept very detailed minutes of meetings and important happenings — all in incredible penmanship. I was so impressed by their professionalism. Twenty-five years before they gained the vote, these Victorian women essentially started a profitable business. They bought property, founded and operated a hospital, hired nurses and other employees — and it’s all recorded in the VIA minutes.”

“The women of the VIA never gave up, and because of them, we have Doylestown Hospital,” said Valerie Eastburn, chair of the Phillips’ Mill Drama Committee and longtime Doylestown resident. “This is a story of what can happen when women take charge. Women are still struggling to be listened to. Through these live performances, we tell stories of our past while addressing the issues of today.”

Performances are July 20-22 at 7:30 p.m., and July 23 at 3 p.m. Tickets are $25-$75. Visit phillipsmill.org.